The Definitive Guide To Preventing Facebook Contest Cheating and Fraud

Have you ever felt anxious as a marketer?

Have you felt fear, uncertainty, and despair?

If you have ever produced ads, contests or sent out newsletters then it is likely that you have!

During a Facebook contest there are many things that can rue n the “party” you have been planning for weeks.

It leaves a bad taste in your customers’ mouth, as opposed to making them happy.

You don’t want it right?

People Want To Win

Well cheating and fraud is something that can happen when you are running a sweepstakes or a contest.

But there are several ways to prevent it!

This will be a long but thoughtful article, sometimes technical, but full of great information. We are a company who sees this every day and can help you prevent it.

Here is how.

#1. Increase The Barrier Of Entry At Sweepstakes And Giveaways

To attract genuine entrants you may ask more questions during your entry form – such as a phone number or product preferences. Those people who aren’t scared off by these additional questions are more likely to become customers.

Cheater opportunity: they will enter meaningless characters to skip the required form fields.

Solution: ban! You are able to see every single entry, and if the entry form answers are not serious, then leave them out of the contest.

Solution’s Weakness: the longer the form, the less people will enter. Similarly, the longer the form, the more determined and serious people you will have on your list. You decide!

Conclusion: It’s okay to use a longer form. Keep in mind that you will be able to use the collected data for further marketing, whilst at the same time preventing fraud.

You don’t need to ask that many questions, but asking more than the compulsory name and email address can help a lot.

You don’t need to ask that many questions, but asking more than the compulsory name and email address can help a lot.

#2. Restrict Sweepstakes Entries Per Facebook Account (Yes, Use Facebook Popups!)

Sweepstakes are chance-based promotions where people can enter their contact details to win, or invite friends to increase their chances.

Cheating opportunity: to increase their chances people will try to enter with new, fake email addresses. (It’s not that hard to create a new email address, right?)

Solution: restrict to one entry per Facebook account. To achieve this you will need to use Facebook Permission Requests aka popups. Even though everyone hates them, their conversion is between 88-93% according to our own data. (February data of Antavo’s Quiz app.)

Solution’s Weakness: users can trick the system by creating a new Facebook account. Although it’s not that easy as every single Facebook account requires a valid email address. The time it would take to create a new account may serve as a deterrent for the potential subscriber.

Consider this: Facebook lets you ask if the Facebook user is a „Verified User” – if their phone number is connected to their profile. As people usually don’t have more than one active phone number, it really helps to filter out cheaters. The problem is that the majority of Facebook people do not give their phone number to Facebook, and if the condition is a Verified Facebook User, they are likely to just leave.

Conclusion: restrict entry to one per Facebook user.

I need to accept this to enter the Photo Contest. I don’t mind!

I need to accept this to enter the Photo Contest. I don’t mind!

#3. Restrict Sweepstakes Entries Per IP Address If Running a Contest on Your Website

It might be the case that you want to run a contest out of Facebook to take advantage of your current website traffic? Well, to make it secure you can still use the Facebook login and act according to #1. But if your target audience is not on Facebook, then you may be better leaving it and going back to the classic IP verification.

Cheating opportunity: to increase their chances people will make up new email addresses to enter multiple times.

Solution: you can restrict entry per IP address.

Solution’s Weakness #1.: IP addresses are not that secure. When joining a Wi-Fi network, or moving around the city, Internet providers may serve you from different IP addresses. Also, you might have a different IP address on your phone than on your laptop. Moreover, there are tools on the Internet that can help change your IP address. (Developers use it all the time for work.)
In short the problem is that users can use a new email address from another IP address.

Solution’s Weakness #2.: IP addresses are too strict. It might be the case that schools, workplaces or sometimes villages are under the same IP address; so two users with different email addresses could not enter your sweepstakes as they are from the same IP address. In this case they are legitimately angry.

Solution to Solution’s Weakness #2.: If someone enters with a different email address from the same IP address, then send a confirmation email to the entrant who entered later. If the link is clicked then the email address is valid, the subscription is counted.

(This still only means that the email address is valid. The user could cheat and created multiple mailboxes and confirm every single email.) I know it’s complicated and can be quite tedious, and if your contest app is a custom development it’s even more complicated. We have all these functions inbuilt within Antavo without extra cost.

Conclusion: if you don’t want to use Facebook, Twitter or other trusted social network’s login, then go with IP address restriction. It’s better than nothing, but not perfect.

When trying to trick the system people often complain that they have problems tricking it.

When trying to trick the system people often complain that they have problems tricking it.

#4. Be Mysterious About The Actual State of The Contest

During a photo contest where winning depends on votes from friends a lot of passion can arise. The nightmare of the contest manager. At some point 2 or 3 entrants may fight for the first place and the rest lose motivation.

(Side note: you can prevent this. Never ever give the grand prize to the entrant with the most votes. You should have a jury round, or draw the winner from the top 10 entries. Here is a post about how to do that. )

Cheater opportunity: people may try to hack the system for more votes (see point #1. and #2.) or even insinuate that others are cheating.

Solution: Hide the number of votes. People will be less tempted to cheat if they can’t see who’s in the lead. Try to use this instead: post just the name of the top 10 entrants who currently have the highest number of votes, in order to provide a bit of information.

Solution’s Weakness: This is just an opportunity for you to talk to people’s mind, and the passion can still come out when you eventually show the numbers. And of course you still need to take off the technical security.

Conclusion: hide the number of votes from time to time. But the best option is if you focus on fraud prevention and choosing the winners smartly. (Again, here is how.)

In Antavo’s system you can hide the number of votes with a click, which often comes in handy.

In Antavo’s system you can hide the number of votes with a click, which often comes in handy.

#5. Restrict Contest Votes Per Facebook Account or IP Address

During photo and video contests you need to pay attention not only to the entrants – who upload their images or video – but also to voters, who are included in the winner selection process – the more votes one receives, the higher their chances of winning.

Voters may vote by giving their contact details in order to reduce fraud. (Or if your sole purpose is to grow your fan base, you may let them vote without giving their details – the next point is about that.)

Cheater opportunity: voters may create new email addresses and new social accounts.

Solution: the same as point #2. and #3. Discussed above. You may either use Facebook verification or IP and email verification. I recommend the first one if the contest is on Facebook.

Solution’s Weakness: everything is trickable as noted above at #2. and #3.

Conclusion: Make sure that you have the security mechanisms inbuilt for voters too, either Facebook or IP address verification.

Here people need to give their name and email address to enter.

Here people need to give their name and email address to enter.

#6. Take The Consequences If Voting Is Too Easy

During contests and sweepstakes people can give their details, but you may decide to ask nothing in return from the voter. This might be the situation if you want to maximize exposure to your contest by eliminating the barrier to vote. Perfect for growing your fan base, but equally easy to trick.

Cheater opportunity: the voting can work with a single click, so they don’t need to give their email address to enter.

Solution: Filter to IP addresses.

Solution’s Weakness: The weakness here is that it’s easy to trick (users can claim new IP addresses or vote from different IP addresses) and sometimes too strict (when entire workplaces or villages are under the same IP, so voters can’t vote).

Conclusion: Eliminating the barrier of voting (aka „anonym voting”) can lead to a lot of buzz and new fans, but you risk fraud and dissatisfaction. For new pages when the main goal is to grow the page, it might worth the risk.

If your main goal is to grow your page and reach as many people as possible, then allow anonymous voting.

If your main goal is to grow your page and reach as many people as possible, then allow anonymous voting.

#7. Inform Subscribers in The Terms And Conditions

We see from time to time that contest admins are afraid to ban subscribers, because they didn’t state it in the terms and conditions.

Clearly state your fraud policy, winner selection method, prize(s), any requirement or limitation. Every single contest needs to have a clear set of Terms and Conditions and even though it is a significant amount of work to put it together – it is worth it as it protects you from any liability.

Kyle-Beth Hilfer has written a great post about contest and sweepstakes rules here.

Don’t forget, that you can reserve the right to ban cheaters, once it is stated in the Terms & Privacy, and you can then subsequently rely on that term and quote it where necessary. (Let’s hope it will not happen though.)

Facebook Contest Cheating Is Complex

Contests and sweepstakes are great, but as it’s people who participate in it the shit-storm can hit you.

Jealousy, determination, hopelessness, and happiness – these are all feelings from your potential customers that you need to deal with.

It’s not for the faint of heart.


To wrap it up here are my recommendations on what methods you should choose to prevent fraud during your contests.

But first: everything is trickable, and there is very little you can do other than just accepting it.

It’s really easy to create a new email address, and this is the obvious choice if someone wants to cheat on your contest. You can use advanced protection mechanisms, like email verification, Facebook ID, IP addresses etc. But there is no perfect solution to this problem… where there is a will there is a way.

So here are my recommendations, largely directed towards businesses who are on Facebook and have customers on Facebook.

  1. Avoid cheaters by offering grand prizes that attract genuine customers instead of prize hunters. Here is a guide on how to do it.
  2. Never run a contest where the number of votes determines the winner. Have more winners, and involve luck. Here is a guide on how to do that.
  3. Run the contest on Facebook, as the contestants would share it with friends there anyway.
  4. Restrict sweepstakes entries per Facebook account (yes, use Facebook popups!)
  5. Increase the barrier of entry at sweepstakes by asking some more questions.
  6. Make sure that voting is also restricted per Facebook account when running a photo or video contest.
  7. If your sole purpose is to grow your Facebook page and you don’t want people to verify themselves to vote, then accept the probability of fraud.
  8. Make a good T&C.

Over to you

Tell me, has a shit-storm ever hit you?

Or is it happening right now, and this is why you are reading this post? (I might write a post about contest fraud crisis management later…)

Ask any technical questions, I am happy to answer. We know quite a lot about this particular topic as we see a lot of contests and sweepstakes every day from Antavo’s customers.

And thanks for reading! It is truly appreciated.

The Definitive Guide To Preventing Facebook Contest Cheating and Fraud by
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Zsuzsa Kecsmar

Zsuzsa is CMO and co-founder of Antavo, a marketing tool to create sweepstakes, contests and giveaways to Facebook, mobile and web. Connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn!
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  • Ivelina Mihaylova

    Very very helpful tips! Thanks so much :) Do you have more tips on how to restrict to one entry per Facebook account?

    • Zsuzsa Szabo

      Hi Ivelina, thanks, I am glad you liked it. Restricting to one entry per Facebook account is a technical question. Do you use Antavo / another tool / custom developed app?

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  • Antonio Calero

    It doesn’t matter how complex are your anti-cheating rules, there will be always someone who manages to breach them. However I think this article provides an excellent set of guidelines to at least minimise the impact of cheaters.

    Another thing I’ve apply with some success is drive traffic (either: online or offline) in order to get into the competition. This may also reduce the number of participants, but surely they will be more genuine.

    • Zsuzsa Szabo

      Thanks Antonio, I am glad you liked the post!

      Can you please explain further what do you mean my driving traffic to get into the competition? Not that clear for me.

      • Antonio Calero

        Yes, sorry: my fault. What I mean is asking people to go to your website and find the answer to a question, or actually go to a store and do something (not necessarily purchase). Of course the more effort it takes to enter, the less people will be interested in joining and thus you need to compensate this with a much better prize. However by doing any of these, I’ve seen that cheaters usually are not willing to repeat the whole process again just to get an additional entry (in the case of the website, I changed the question several times, so basically they couldn’t copy-paste their previous answer)

        Does that make more sense now?

        • Zsuzsa Szabo

          Hi Antonio, it does make sense! Conditioning the entry to visiting your website is a great way to drive traffic also to filer the less serious ones. Among our own apps the Quiz is the best for that – you need to go to the website to give a correct answer.

          I really like the idea of changing the questions! Was that automatic, or you changed it manually every day?

          • Antonio Calero

            It was automatic with a combination of rules based on dates as well as milestones (e.g.: if we reach 500 likes, then show question C, etc…) more difficult to configure, but campaign objectives (create brand awareness and increase in store sales) sky rocketed!

          • Zsuzsa Szabo

            wow I see, really smart!

  • LucyZ

    Hi there, I am currently running a competiton for my company on Facebook and we have found that one of the entrants actually has two accounts – against Facebook terms of service and we have removed his entry. He is now threatening higher action. We don’t have a clause that says “entrants must abide by Facebook Terms of Service” in our T&Cs but isn’t that expected when you are on Facebook. He has also since either deactived/hidden or deleted his other page after claiming to have no access. Would appreciated some feedback! Lucy